Last week we looked at the different options on Facebook, for enabling people to subscribe to and follow your public updates, without exchanging friend requests. This is wholly optional functionality for Facebook, I believe the default for new accounts is that it is still switched off, so you can if you choose never interact on Facebook beyond your chosen circle of friends – as discussed last week this is still my preferred option for any under-age users I have any say over, and I recommend that policy to any other parents. But what about grown-ups – why would you enable the Follower option? Well, it all depends on how you use Facebook and what level of control and granularity you want from it.
For example, I use Facebook in a wide variety of ways, from promoting my business and writing to sharing photos and news with family and friends. The audience I choose for this varies massively according to the interest and sensitivity of the different pieces of content and for some things I actually would like them seen and shared by as many people as possible – such as if I share an article I have written or someone I know has written.
OK so I can set the audience to ‘public’… This means that anyone on my Friends list can see it and they can also easily share it as that option will appear, and it means that anyone not on my Friends list can see it IF someone shares it, or if they happen to visit my Profile page – but hopefully apart from some hypothetical weird stalker, that’s pretty unlikely, so far as audience distribution goes. People rarely visit other people’s profile pages for information sharing (weirdo stalkers hopefully being pretty rare), so nobody other than my friends would be likely to see it ever, unless a mutual friend interacted with it. And due to continual tweaks to the Facebook algorithms, exactly what your friends see of your output depends on a massive range of factors beyond your control… lets jus say its certainly no way of guaranteeing being read.
I also receive friend requests I don’t choose to accept, for a variety of reasons – the most common one being, I haven’t the foggiest idea who they are! Second reason, I know exactly who they are and they just want to use Facebook to sell me stuff . Perhaps we are already friends, but they don’t understand how Facebook works and have made a second profile with their business name – either way, I have no desire to be ‘friends’ with that ‘person’. Make a Page already and I will like it, don’t try to shove your way into my newsfeed with a fake profile!
So all the friend requests I ignore now go into the Followers list, which I think is quite a nice irony really – I prefer not to have you spam up my feed with your own commercial messages, but you are welcome to subscribe to my public updates if you so choose – and a significant proportion of those will be promotional in nature. Elegant karmic symmetry there.
Now there are other people in my list of Followers who I really have no idea about. They are not connected to any of the places I live or work or to any mutual friends… Who on earth are they and where did they come from? I have no idea, and it doesn’t matter. By Following me they get a feed of stuff they could see on my profile anyway and will also have probably tweeted to much larger numbers – ie things I share with the Public audience selection enabled. Content I want to distribute gets a slightly wider airing, and I guess at least I know your Facebook name now, you weird creepy stalker person! You will never ever see photos of my kids, anything identifying where I live or personal feelings or opinions, because I do not choose to share them with people I don’t know
And I am no public figure or celebrity. Many of whom, whilst they might also have professionally managed Facebook Pages as well, still like to interact personally via their own profile – which might have thousands of followers. In fact it’s thought that Facebook added this functionality specifically to extend the reach of profiles, recognising that people use them in a variety of ways that don’t quite breach the “business use” rules but also go way beyond just connecting with friends and family. You can “only” have 5000 friends on Facebook – but I don’t know if there is any limit to the number of people who can choose to follow your public updates.
If you want to ‘Follow’ me on Facebook you will find my weekly articles publicly posted every Friday morning, or you can join our discussion group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/Costaconnected/
Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, May 9th 2014 ©Maya Middlemiss, Casslar Consulting SL